the state of ypsilanti

For those of you that aren’t on the Mayor’s mailing list, here’s the annual State of the City message that he just issued.

Dear Ypsilanti Neighbors and Friends:

The year 2007 was a challenging one for Ypsilanti. The state economy declined, many businesses reduced staff or downsized, and mortgage foreclosures almost doubled from 2006. Despite these problems, city council, staff, and residents had successes during the year in business development, historic preservation, and regional cooperation efforts. Below is a partial list of these successes that will help the city of Ypsilanti to be attractive and sustainable in 2008 and beyond:

Walgreen’s breaks ground
The corner of Michigan Avenue and Prospect was the site of a vacant business and property owned by SOS family services. The property was bundled together and sold in a package deal that provides money for SOS to carry out their mission of helping needy families, places Walgreen’s near downtown, and puts new property on the tax rolls. This is a winner for everyone.

Depot Town Community Development Corporation formed
Riverside and Frog Island Parks will be operated by the Depot Town CDC, which is an offshoot of the Depot Town Association. The DTA has thirty years of experience running community projects like the ElvisFest. The DTCDC will build on this experience to plan events and provide improvements and maintenance to both parks. DTCDC projects will require city recreation commission and city council approval. The city looks forward to projects that beautify both parks, draw people, and keep our city a thriving festival showplace.

Eastern Leaders Group created
Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw County, officials from the city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Superior Township, Augusta Township, and private business people have formed a group dedicated to spurring economic growth in the eastern part of Washtenaw County. The first project is a small business incubator slated to be located in downtown Ypsilanti. Called Spark East, this effort will provide office space and assistance for small fledgling companies. The ELG is an impressive group of individuals in both the public and private sector who are working together with a regional focus to better the eastern part of Washtenaw County. Stay tuned as things progress on Spark East.

Starkweather house sold for restoration
Over the years city council has saved historic structures in Ypsilanti by transferring them to responsible owners who have brought them back to their glory. Starting in the 1970s, the old city hall, the old fire station, the Ladies’ Library, the Gilbert mansion, and the Towner House were saved after city council transferred them to responsible owners.

Recently the Ypsilanti Historical Museum and the Starkweather house have been transferred from the city to private owners. The Ypsilanti Historical Museum houses the newly renovated stained glass window from the front of the Ladies’ Library and many other impressive exhibits of Ypsilanti history. The Starkweather house was the home of Elijah McCoy and a stop for the Underground Railroad. Ypsilanti preservationist and restoration contractor Ron Rupert now owns the house and will begin renovations in 2008. This is another in a long list of historic preservation victories for Ypsilanti.

Regional police authority study group formed
For over a year, city manager Ed Koryzno and police chief Matt Harshberger have been attending meetings with Superior, Ann Arbor, Northfield, Salem, Augusta, and York townships to explore creating a regional police authority. The consulting firm Vichow, Krause, and Co. will present a proposal to the study group for a regional police authority in January 2008. The firm has helped municipalities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois form regional public safety organizations. The study will include a comparative cost analysis of current services and recommend a police authority organizational structure tailored to our region that would result in a high quality of service and reduced costs.

The city and the townships will evaluate the study. If city council decides to go ahead with the regional police authority, the issue will go to a vote of the people (the authority would require a supporting property tax millage). Most likely, city council would reduce the general fund millage by the amount required for the regional police authority so that taxpayers would see no increase in property taxes. In any event, the regional police authority won’t become a reality until the end of 2009 or later.

Regional fire district considered
Fire Chief Jon Ichesco is discussing creation of a regional fire district with the city of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor and Pittsfield townships. A regional fire district would not alter the structure of the Ypsilanti fire department. All fire departments would pool their resources to create a strong regional fire district. City council can enact a regional fire district by resolution. No ordinance or tax changes are required. City council looks forward to further progress on the fire district from Chief Ichesco.

Ypsilanti 2020 Task Force appointed
Early this year city council appointed the Ypsilanti 2020 Task Force. The Task Force is charged with developing long-range planning to ensure that Ypsilanti is a viable and attractive community in the year 2020. The group is investigating state funding initiatives, spurring business development, encouraging affordable transportation, partnering with EMU and U-M, and enhancing regional recreation. The Task Force is integral to planning for Ypsilanti’s future and was asked to participate in the Eastern Leaders Group.

New city staff hired
April McGrath joined us in 2007 as assistant city manager. April has been a great addition with her human resources and contract negotiation experience. She is currently negotiating contracts with the city unions.

In the city clerk’s office, Frances McMullan was appointed clerk by city council. Ed Golembiewski has joined her in the office as deputy clerk. Their combined elections experience resulted in trouble-free elections in August and November of 2007. We look forward to continued smooth operations in the clerk’s office in 2008.

I commend city manager Ed Koryzno and the city staff for their hard work and dedication to making the city of Ypsilanti a great place to live. As we look forward to the challenges of the budget process and keeping Ypsilanti attractive and sustainable by working with our regional partners, I encourage you to share your ideas and comments with city council and me. You can contact me at (734) 277-5446 or e-mail me at mayor@cityofypsilanti.com.

With best regards,
Paul Schreiber
Mayor, City of Ypsilanti

So, is there anything the Mayor left out when summing up this past year? What will you remember about 2007 in Ypsi? I know the Mayor’s purpose here was to focus on the positive, but I think any comprehensive list has to include the EMU scandal in the wake of student Laura Dickinson’s rape and murder. And then there’s the failure of the city income tax to pass. And it may not be that significant in the whole scheme of things, but I’ll always remember 2007 as the year in which a certain community leader revealed on this site that he used a robotic device to cleanse his nether regions.

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29 Comments

  1. Brent
    Posted January 6, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, got a $50 parking ticket, paid even higher property taxes, paid higher water bills, passive agressively began flipping off city hall as I passed, uhm that’s about it.

  2. Posted January 7, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Water Street update? Any progress?

    How will the current budget surplus change the solvency plan?

  3. Publius
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    How could a $1.3 million dollar budget surplus not be listed as a success? Could it be that it doesn’t fit the narrative that the city is in trouble and needs more of your money?I would count the defeat of the income tax a huge positive for Ypsilanti.

    Please note that this was supposed to be a list of successes. The murder of an EMU student would not be on this list.

  4. egpenet
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    City actually has $3.1 or so in the revolving fund, including the $1.3 … there’s a poll on Steve Pierce’s site on what to do with the surplus.

    There’s also an over-funded surplus in the city employee retiremnt accounts amounting to $5.4 million. Most accounts are over-funded. The accounts that are NOT over-funded could be covered by less than $1.0 million … leaving ANOTHER $5.3 million that could go into the revolving fund.

    ALSO, depending upon the legalities and contract language, the retiremnt funds might be able to be leveraged (used as security) if there were a protracted recssion or other emrgency when the Water Streeet bond payments came due … asd well as to cover the SNAFUs with the ACH railroad tracks and other sillinesses.

    Reducing future legacy costs will be key … long term.

    Regional police and fire/EMS are GREAT news!

    My question to homeowners in the city is: How soon will you file for a reassessment due to the 4%-8% drop in home values in this part of the county? You waiting for 10% … 12% … 20%? If the recession we are in lengthens beyond August/September or deepens based upon unemployment with rising food/gasoline/state income taxes/etc. … how far away is OUCH!?

    Follow-up question: What will declining property valuations do to the city budget?

  5. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    A Water Street request for proposals from developers in Michigan and other states will be sent out this month. Murph made some contacts with brownfield developers and they will also be contacted.

    Ford/ACH overpaid taxes and will be repaid $720,000 out of the surplus. The $1.3 million budget surplus was due to selling some city property and leaving six city staff positions unfilled: three in the police department, two in the fire department, and one in DPW. City council must decide if these positions should be filled.

    The income tax ballot question result was a clear indication that voters don’t want their taxes raised. City council will balance the 2009 and 2010 budgets with the available revenues. Since the city residential state equalized value averages 30% higher than the taxable value, the Ypsilanti budget won’t be affected by falling property values for the next few years.

    The next city council goal-setting budget discussion is January 12 at 9:00 a.m. in the Haab building on N. Huron. The public is welcome.

    Paul Schreiber

  6. KT
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Was this also the year that the man was shot and killed outside The Keg by an Ypsi police officer?

  7. Kathy
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I’d also like to comment on the fact that I still see a ton of leaves in my neighborhood . . . especially now that the snow has melted. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the ONLY leave pick-up that occurred on my street was scheduled when 75% of the leaves were still on the trees!! Not my happiest Ypsi memory for this year.
    We used to brag about the services we received vs. Ann Arbor services. My tax dollars are higher than ever but my services are really dwindling.
    I’ve been an Ypsi resident for 16 years!

  8. Robert
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Another Ypsilanti issue post…a blatent attempt by Maynard to push his January traffic numbers up against his foe Jeff Gannon. I’m expecting a picture of Mark reclining in nothing but his trademarked Ypsipantis to show up floating around the Internets soon.

  9. Posted January 7, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I continue to be confused how we have the highest tax rate around, the deed to a Water Street lemon, leaves in the street, positions unfilled, an embarrassing road (Mansfield) in front of West Middle School and yet the council and the mayor seem to have a love fest with the city manager over what a great job he’s doing. I hope that my boss is as generous with the praise when I accidentally destroy our business. Keep up the great work!

    Oh, and let’s have some more auto-related events. Because the auto industry has left us all with such great memories. Let’s celebrate the defection of our incomes. In the vein of celebrating that which pains us, maybe next year we can have Malaria-Fest or the ever-popular Poor-O-Rama!

  10. Steph
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    The police shooting of David Ware was first discussed here January 24 of 2007.

    http://markmaynard.com/index.php/2007/01/24/accused_drug_dealer_killed_by_police_in_

  11. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 7, 2008 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    City council made the decisions on the property tax rate, Water Street, and the leaf pickup program. The city manager can make recommendations, but city council must take the blame or the credit for policy decisions such as these.

    The city manager left the vacant city staff positions unfilled knowing that the city may be required to pay Ford/ACH about $700,000 back. This is sound fiscal judgment and is more proof that Ed Koryzno is a good city manager.

    The east side of Mansfield street is in the city and the west side is in Ypsilanti Township. The Township side is the responsibility of the Washtenaw Road Commission. The city is discussing the resurfacing issue with the Ypsilanti Public Schools and Ypsilanti Township.

    Whether or not city council should have made the entrepreneurial move to acquire Water Street is a moot point now. We must concentrate on how to make Water Street a success. City council will consider all responses from the request for proposals.

    Paul Schreiber

  12. Posted January 7, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the mayor on the positive aspects of Walgreens going in on the corner of Prospect and Michigan Ave. With Dos Hermanos, the Farmer’s Market and Walgreens, basic necessities other than clothing at affordable prices will be within walking distance of the downtown area.

    I also am a fan of private, non-chain businesses but see the Walgreens opening as a way to draw more people nearby. It also is a big improvement on the Rent to Own that was on the spot before it closed.

    I will miss the SOS house though with its excellent ramp on the front. (And may regret ever posting this comment if the lights on the Walgreens come in, blink brightly and keep me awake all night.)

  13. Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I echo the comments about leaf pickup. Though I wholeheartedly support saving money by reducing the number of pickups from 2 to 1, I don’t think it is all that much to ask that it be done with a modicum of intelligence and foresight. Such as, for example, by picking up the leaves after they have fallen off the trees.

    If City Council made the decision to do just one pickup before they all fell off the trees, well, that’s just bizarre. Frankly, if that’s the plan, it would seem smarter to just dispense with the pickups entirely and use the money for something else.

  14. Rodneyn
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The change from 2 leaf pick-ups to 1 couldn’t have saved much money, because we still paid the same number of employees and still maintained the same amount of equipment. All we did was use it less. What were the public works employees doing with their extra time?

  15. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    City council tried to schedule the leaf pickup early enough to avoid and early snowfall but late enough to pick up as many leaves as possible. Unfortunately, we had a late leaf drop this past fall. I’m sure city council will review the scheduling with the DPW director for this year.

    DPW was installing the holiday lights downtown and performing other maintenance between the leaf pickup and the snowfall.

    Paul Schreiber

  16. Posted January 8, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Wait. So, holiday lights and “other maintenance” are more important than the grotesque mess in my neighborhood? Have you seen the streets since the snow melted? And don’t even start about who did and didn’t pick up leaves. My retired neighbors, who actually had the time and the finances to buy eleventy-dozen lawn bags in bulk, have a mess along the street in front of their house. The city wants to blame individuals for not following the rules, but we’re all in this together. Everybody suffers under bad policies. (Oh and by the way, your DPW manager, who claimed he would discuss my issues with the city manager, never called me back as promised. I’m not happy about that.)

    And if anybody had just bothered to ask anybody who normally has a 50ft. plus pile of leaves every year (no exaggeration, I have the photos), we could have told you that you can’t pick them up that early. This ain’t rocket science. But I guess them holiday lights won’t hang themselves, eh?

    Mayor Schreiber, first — thank you for participating in the blog. Second, this nonsense about Mansfield Street is just that. Everybody’s drawing lines in the sand (or on a map) and the kids continue to walk in mud (oh yeah, no sidewalks either) while folks drive on a ruined street in front of what are supposed to be schools of choice. It’s unacceptable that nobody could figure out how to fix this. I’ll stop blaming the city manager if somebody actually stands up and gets this done. The road might be in Ypsi Township, but those are OUR schools. This is MY neighborhood. Where is the leadership? Where is the entrepreneurship?

    Can I have my taxes back now? This just isn’t working out for me. (It’s weird to be grateful that our property values aren’t going up. Does anybody else feel weird about that?)

  17. egpenet
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Leaf pickup threw evry city off … it was a bizaare year with such a late leaf fall.

    What was MORE bizzare was watching lights going up on Washington Street the week before Christmas.

    Folks … we voted NO on the tax … so there’s a lot more we can expect isn’t going to get done at all or on time. It’s going on in every city in Michigan. I picked up the litter and trash in front of my house on N. Huron today as I always do. I pick up trash as I walk around town.

    They don’t call’em leaves for nothing … leave’em there or clean’em up yourselves!

    Sidewalks are another issue. Business owners and home owners should keeep their own sidewalks clean. Most do. When the sidwalk is MISSING … and the kids are walking in mud … that’s nuts. There are too many bodies of government in this area and no one wants to claim responsibility … at least not without a fight. This one should be good.

    I enjoyed seeeing the mayor blogging and hope he continues.

    And I REALLY enjoyed the article about the fire and police regionalization in the A2 News. Maybe we can regionalize sidewalks.

  18. On The Fence
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Well, what if you worked to help figure something out instead of waiting on the City Manager, Mayor or someone else to find the time to get around to it.

    The sidewalk is a complex issue mainly due to state regulations and funding regulations. It’s not impossible, it just takes a little coordinating between the City and Twp. to make happen. Since it’s on the Twp. side, they’re the ones with the biggest obligation to make something happen. To be honest, the Twp. doesn’t really get the value of sidewalks. Case in point: you can tell where the City stops and Twp. starts based on where there’s curbs and sidewalks are where there aren’t.

    As Ed said, with no new taxes it’s time to start helping to see things you want to see happen. You wanted community involvement, well here it is!

  19. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    City council has eliminated one leaf pickup to stay within the 3-mill separate tax for solid waste. City council understands that service changes due to cost-saving measures can be difficult to deal with (I used fifteen lawn bags for leaves myself). Alternatives include increasing the solid waste millage or paying for the second leaf pickup out of the general fund. City council thought that these weren’t viable alternatives.

    The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority will be responsible for the holiday lights the next season to assure a timely festive look for downtown.

    The Washtenaw Road Commission maintains the Ypsilanti Township side of N. Mansfield Street. I’m hopeful that discussions between Ypsilanti city, Ypsilanti Township, Ypsilanti Public Schools, and the Road Commission will result in improvements to Mansfield in the future. Unfortunately, I have nothing to report at this time.

    Paul Schreiber

  20. Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I think the gravamen of the complaint, which hasn’t really been substantively responded to, is a certain perception of incompetence. Unless leaf pickup (the timing of which is necessarily dependent upon Mother Nature) can be scheduled with a certain degree of flexibility, then we may as well take the dollars used to pay for it, rip them up into shreds, throw them into the toilet, and flush them on down.

    I’ll be the first to agree that much of what City officials do requires expertise, and I am grateful that we have many dedicated officials with a great deal of expertise. However, appreciating that it is a waste of time and money to do the only leaf pick-up of the season before the leaves have fallen from the trees doesn’t really require any expertise. All it requires is common sense.

    With regard to Mansfield, I think the prevailing belief is that if the Mayor of Ypsilanti got on the phone with our state rep/senator or perhaps went to a road commission meeting and raised a ruckus with whoever is responsible for the ongoing state of the road (which has been that way for f-ing years), then perhaps it might get moved up on the list of priorities. Maybe not, but the gesture would be meaningful.

    I think people need to see their Mayor as their advocate, their representative among other more remote and faceless governmental divisions, rather than as someone delivering yet another report that they continue to wait for.

  21. John on Forest
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Mark, thanks for posting Mayor Schreiber’s State of the City email. I suppose I don’t understand the point of it either, as I would think a mention of negative things would be just as important. It sounded more like a brag sheet than a true assessment of the state of our city.

    Paul, was your email truly a “State of the City” statement, or did Mark mislabel it here?

    But now that I’ve “bashed” Paul’s SotC, let me just say that some of the comments on here surely sound like sour grapes of some sort or another.

    egpenet, Teaspout, and On the Fence: Thank you for your reasoned responses to the less reasoned ones. Mayor Scheiber, thank you for your patient answers to the questions asked.

    Brent, that’s inflation for you. I find it strange that you would salute city hall for causing inflation, which is occurring at a state and national level as well. WOW, is OUR city hall powerful.

    trusty getto: Thanks for the question on Water Street, it is an important one, no doubt. The mention of a $600,000 surplus (1.3M minus 700k owed to ACH) in the current budget year is also a positive thing to report in the face of future projections of large deficits.

    egpenent: on the 4%-8% drop in assessments, Paul answered you in part. Remember that the assessments, that will go out later this winter, will be based on movements in real estate values that occurred in 2006. The 2007 data will not be tabulated in time, so the assessments are always a year behind. While I think 2006 saw slight declines in property values, don’t expect the larger declines we saw in 2007 to show up on your assessment until next year. To reiterate Paul, your taxable value will likely continue to increase even as your assessed values decline until they become equal.

    Kathy, Curt, and trusty getto (on leaf pickup): I’d be happy enough if the city didn’t pick up leaves at all, except those that are bagged. I compost my leaves every year on site in my back yard. This year was an exception for my maple tree that developed a fungus (tar spot or something like that) on it’s leaves. I raked them to the curb for city pick up as the trucks were coming down my street. I would have gladly bagged them.

    Mansfield Street: OK everyone, this is a complex issue because it involves more than one governmental entity. We should be asking our county government why it’s not a negative in their state of the county statement, rather than bashing the city about it. Frankly, I think the city maybe should have just gone ahead and paved the city side of that street to more clearly delineate the boundary and then be done with it. I haven’t been over there in a while. Are there already sidewalks on the city side of the street? If not, let’s get them built and then this whole red herring issue can be over with. CURT, you addressed this issue in two different posts, still blaming the city. Why don’t you think to blame the township/county instead??

  22. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsilanti city mayor has already spoken with the Ypsilanti Township supervisor and the Ypsilanti Public Schools superintendent about improving Mansfield Street.

    Paul Schreiber

  23. John on Forest
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Everyone,

    I’m sorry for the tone of my previous post. I do get so tired sometimes of non-productive bashing of our city.

    Out of the responses above to MM’s post, these things stand out to me as reasonable additions to the State of the City statement:

    Status on Water Street;
    the failed income tax and it’s ramifications on the city budget;
    A slight budget surplus that will help with the projected future deficit;
    A statement regarding public safety (crime statistics summary, EMU murder, Keg shooting)

    I’d add these:

    Pending closing of ACH;
    Along with the positive report on Walgreens, a mention of the three businesses that are leaving depot Town and any other major business developments;

    To be blunt, dead leaves in the street and the Mansfield street fish don’t qualify IMHO as significant enough to be included.

  24. Posted January 9, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Hey Mark, get everybody named in John on Forest’s post (and the mayor) over to Corner and let’s hash this out. That last thing I want to do is sit at a council meeting and make some sappy public commentary. But everybody who is posting here is clearly an interested citizen who would like a concrete discussion on some things. We have a great list of less than a dozen issues that would be great to chat about with our city government. Yeah, I could probably make some attempt to do it, but I’m lazy. (And I voted for Paul, so he owes me one.)

    Thanks to everybody for chiming in. It’s nice to know that somebody cares.

  25. John Gawlas
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I like Curt’s idea and welcome a legitimate opportunity to hang out at the Corner. A broader conversation on the state of the city should be an assessment of what went well and what needs to be done better. The one constant in government/business/life is that there’s always need for improvement. The challenge is when you get into the details and understand that there are few unilateral actions when it comes to municipal government.

    Take the Mansfield question…the Washtenaw County Road Commission has jurisdiction over 1/2 (or more) of the road but we maintain (i.e., plow and patch) it and so we can count it toward the City’s total major road mileage to calculate annual Act 51 maintenance reimbursement. That funding in no way supports the cost of reconstruction which is why it has to apply for major projects funding administered by WATS, SEMCOG and the State. Of course, that still requires at least a 20% local match plus engineering costs (which the WCRC might like to think the City should bear). The township would appear to have a stake in this but they don’t really have standing in that townships do not receive Act 51 dollars nor do/can they direct submit projects for federal funding – they in fact must rely on the noblesse oblige of the road commission for major roads. Ultimately all the LUGs compete for federal road funding (there are more projects than dollars available in any given year). When units combine to request projects they generally will have better chance of funding, as well as it reduces the cost burden for each. If you think the county could be persuaded to make this a greater priority — remember that the WCRC is a separate entity not beholden to the County Board of Commissioners.

    Okay…that was a bit much and really goes down much better with a beer than without. I’m all for a Corner discussion, Curt (and Mark, John, Cam, et al too)!

  26. Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Great idea John and Curt! Count me in.

  27. John on Forest
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t need any reason to hang out at the Corner Brewery, except because I want to and/or I’m thirsty for a good beer. BUT, I could be persuaded to do it for a more legitimate reason too, John.

    A late Saturday or Sunday afternoon would work well for me. Monday evenings are good too, except the fourth Monday of every month.

    Curt, as lazy as you suggest you are, could you put a consolidated list of those issues together for us?

  28. egpenet
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I can be there as well, if the date is right. Good idea.

  29. mark
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea as well. Let me give it a little thought over the weekend and get back with a proposal of some kind.

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